Birth Story by Sommer Renaldo

August 4, 2010


Act 1: Getting Started
In the wee hours of the morning, I woke because my cotton panties had soaked through. Nothing more than that; no dramatic gush; but they were wet. I managed to go back to sleep for a bit, but excitement had its way with me and I headed downstairs at three AM.

This was Friday, June 11th, and my baby, gender unknown, had a due date of Saturday, June 12th. This was my first. My pregnancy had been a beautiful, blissful, trouble-free one. We were expecting an equally smooth delivery at our home with the help of midwives from Choice. We felt like our entire community was almost as excited about our baby’s arrival as we were. I had a few more projects I needed to pass on to the office before I took maternity leave. I barely finished my email before I had to head back upstairs and wake Chris, my husband, to time suddenly intense contractions (or surges, as we had learned to call them in Hypnobirthing, our birthing method).

We had been told to call our midwives once my surges were ten minutes apart, so they would have as much notice as possible to join us. However, once we began timing them, we discovered to our amazement that they were already only four minutes apart. Chris immediately called one of our three midwives, and we let them know we were doing fine but to come as soon as they could.
It would be wrong to tell you that I recall every detail from here on out, as my labor progressed MUCH faster than expected. It is a mix of clarity and blur for me, sometimes moving in fast forward and sometimes in extreme slow-motion, and more of everything than anything I have known before.

ACT 2: Labor
By the time our senior midwife, Nina, arrived at our home around 10 am, I was sitting in our claw-foot tub with my shirt on, dealing with major pain but holding it together. Chris asked if I wanted to take my clothes off, but that was way beyond me already. I soaked and tried to stay calm as waves of pain washed over. We practiced relaxation methods we’d learned in class, but it was amazingly intense. Was this really just the beginning?

When I finally was able to drag myself, with help, out of the tub and in to the bedroom, Nina reported that I was already in transition at eight centimeters dilation. “Thank God!” I thought. Truly, I thanked Him, and the Buddha and the Goddess Mother and any other deity I could think of, before the next surge hit me. I settled in on the bed, Chris squeezing my hand, and listened to a relaxation script as I went deep inside myself, doing my best to meditate. Our other midwives, Tanya and Rachel, arrived and everyone waited silently for me to have the urge to push. By eleven I was fully dilated and the urge to push started pushing me over. It had been only five hours.

ACT 3: Pushing
We passed hours pushing in various positions. Pushing, and what became the monumental task of putting on my pearl earrings – which was my last attempt to get a hold of the situation and pull myself together and back in to “the plan”. I did get them on, and I got more intense aching in my back, hips and pelvis than I have ever felt. The baby’s head was, and had been, visible for a long time, but it had not made any progress since near the beginning. Two steps forward, two steps back.

I was becoming a tired wreck. Chris was losing his cool. Around 2:30 PM, as if in a movie, the sky got grey and thunder cracked and it seemed like the baby should deliver right then. But as quickly as it came, it passed; the sky cleared and The Little One still was not moving. I was, in short, exhausted to my core. I was crying. I needed it to end. A half hour later, and after consultation with my birth team, we hung out a white flag and we prepared to go to the hospital.

ACT 4: Scene Change
I pulled a mumu on over my head and Chris and I headed to the car. I was moving across the lawn, legs far apart making room for stretched parts, and I was pushing. The neighbors were on the front porch and tried to say “hello”, not picking up the cues that this was no casual stroll. Our drive to Grant Hospital was the most surreal experience I have had EVER. We hit every red light, people cut us off, and Chris was trying his best to get us there safely. All the while I was panting and thinking of our baby, stuck just out of reach behind my pubic bone.

Once we arrived at the Labor and Delivery entrance I was ushered into a wheel chair. I can tell you ladies, even pearls are not enough to make you seem together when you’re being wheeled along, writhing in pain, mid-contraction, after 2.5 hours of active pushing. I really wanted to appear OK, though, as if that would make it so. I was holding myself up  little on the handlebars to relieve some pressure, trying not to make a sound. This was not the grand entrance I had been dreaming of.

ACT 5: Pushing
The Midwives had called ahead and Labor and Delivery was expecting us. We were greeted by a nurse, Michelle, and she was exactly what I needed. She and an epidural, Stat! A half hour later, and several failed attempts to draw blood, I finally I got relief as the pain medication sunk in. The Doctor was called in to examine me. He could see the baby’s head, and pronounced that it was occiput posterior, or sunny-side up, explaining my terrible back pain. Since the baby still had a steady heart rate, the Doc said he would allow me, if I wanted to, to rest and then try pushing again. I still had high hopes of making it work. I tried to rest, and the drugs made me feel like I was floating away; I had to ask Nina to press my feet to counter act my shaking body. I began pushing again, coached by my own my midwives, for another 45 minutes. Again, there was movement but no progress. Then I pushed some more while Dr. Brown used a vacuum extractor. All the nurses and the midwives and Chris joined in to cheer along as a drugged, exhausted, pissed, primal mother attempted to rise up in a last ditch effort to avoid the surgery we all knew would be next.

Despite the spirited encouragement, the vacuum became disengaged three times and Dr. Brown called it. But I was ready to throw in the towel, too. I knew the shift change at the hospital was coming in just over an hour, and I could not bear to be passed to a new group of doctors and nurses. My caesarian went typically: the curtain, the straps, and the incision across my pregnant belly. My husband stood to witness what I could not – the pulling of OUR BEAUTIFUL SON from out from my body. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck 3 times and he had been tethered inside. The source of our problems was revealed! His birth occurred at 6:35pm. Despite the trauma of his birth, he was perfect and healthy.

Days earlier, my father, the new “Grandpa Joe”, had sent a letter for the coming child with the direction of reading it on June 11th. Chris ran home to get it and brought it back to our lovely postpartum recovery room at Grant. We read it through tears around 11 pm. The end of that letter reads, “You are the blessing, the affirmation, the gift and the good”. There’s nothing more truthful; a truth you finally know in that moment when you have a child. As our final task of that heavy and full day we named our son Nico Augustine Hawker. We had intended to teach Nico all about life. As it turned out dear Nico intended to teach us about life as well; the drama, the thrill, the tragedy, the comedy and most of all the love story that it is.

From Sommer Renaldo of Label Brand & Design Boutique.

P.S. — Goddess Leonie wrote the beautiful, spiritual birth story of her daughter Ostara in 3 parts.


Note from Design Mom: throughout my pregnancy, I posted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. My baby has now arrived — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 emily August 4, 2010 at 8:26 am

Beautiful! Thank you, thank you for sharing it.


2 Prima Clementina August 4, 2010 at 10:34 am

Thank you for sharing this story. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually crying.
My story is the same – all attempts for that ‘natural’ birth ended after 30 hours with a c-section. It is a blessing, but wow – reading through that brought back the intense feeling of that day’s struggle.


3 brooke August 4, 2010 at 10:53 am

my gosh, i can sure relate to sommer’s story! i’m so glad that she and the baby were able to come out healthy and alive. my second birth was just like that. i naturally labored for 18 hours, pushed for 3, and then for another hour after i finally relented and accepted an epidural. no baby. a c-section later, my beautiful baby girl was born. it still brings tears to my eyes.


4 Cathy August 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Thank you so much for sharing! We’re expecting #2, and even though I’ve gone through the birthing experience I still love hearing about other momma’s birthing stories.


5 sienna August 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

i also had a very similar experience. made it through the labor without the drugs only to get stuck after two hours of pushing and too exhausted to do anything but lay there and cry. glad everything worked out in the end. thanks to modern medicine for those moments when nothing else seems to work.


6 kati August 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm

it sounds perfect, even if it wasn’t your original plan. i love that you were able to roll with the punches and now, writing it, not come across as a hospital hater, even though you would have preferred the natural birth you visioned.


7 Amy S August 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Thank you for sharing your story! What a journey! What really touched my heart is that you could have sounded bitter and angry. Instead, you took us through the positive side of your journey, allowing us to feel the beautiful and touching parts.


8 Kelly August 4, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I’m teary-eyed as I recall all the unexpected turns of our son’s birth. Thank you for sharing this beautiful birth story


9 Jennifer O. August 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm

That reminds me of when I had my first son…which we named Niko. :) Glad everything turned out well!


10 peggy August 6, 2010 at 12:48 am

my first baby has nearly the same birth story… sunny side up as you say!

enjoy your baby!!!


11 Monica August 7, 2010 at 8:38 am

I love this story because it was the same for me, my all-natural birth after 17 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing ending in c-section because she was just “stuck” right behind my pubic bone (they think I have a flattened pelvis, the doctor wasn’t even able to fit the forceps in to try extraction that way).

You hear so many “happy ending” natural birth stories and I couldn’t be more pleased for those women and their experiences but there is always something comforting in hearing about other women that had the same trouble as you and yet are still just as happy about their beautiful baby as you are.


12 Monica August 7, 2010 at 8:40 am

*Well of course they are happy about their beautiful baby, I meant to say beautiful birth. :)


13 rose August 10, 2010 at 12:21 am

Thanks for sharing the story….loved every bit of it


14 Carrie August 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Crazy, we are going to CHOICE, too, and have Nine and Rachel working with us, as well as Audra. And our backup is Grant. I read your blog all the time and didn’t realize you delivered in Columbus!


15 Jess @ Reclaimed Marketplace August 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I was not intending to stop and read this post right now but once I started I couldnt stop reading. My eyes are filled with tears. Thank so much for sharing this beautiful story!


16 Alli August 31, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s a testament to our bodies and though birth is natural there are unusual things that can happen (like umbilical cord wrapped three times) that make us stop and realize not only how beautifully designed our bodies are but there is usually a good reason for why labor isn’t progressing. Your baby was so smart to stay inside as well :)


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